It's a typical Friday evening at Sony Metreon's Airtight Garage
arcade, and teenagers and adults alike are watching the enthusiastic
dancers of the Dance Dance Revolution game. DDR is the latest craze
in video arcade entertainment for the young and the agile.
Brian Perez and Samantha Valdez, both 14, dance to the DDR tunes
every chance they get. They each have their own style of moving to
the pulsating beat of the music.
Perez, a student at Westmoor High School in Daly City, crosses
his legs and pivots around to face the audience and gets down on his
hands to touch the arrows on the platform. Valdez, who attends the
School of the Arts Alternative High School in The City, is lithe and
dances like a cheerleader.
Standing 8 feet high, DDR is equipped with its own soundtrack of
a variety of pop music, house and hip-hop music blaring from a
machine. The dancers watch the monitor for the arrows rising from
the bottom of the screen. As the traveling arrows match the
stationary ones at the top, the players step on a corresponding
panel on the platform. Two up arrows tell the dancer to step on that
arrow twice. Every so often a male voice from the machine bellows
out encouraging remarks like "cool moves" or "stay cool" when a
dancer misses a step. After successfully completing each song, the
dancers move on to one with a faster beat.
Perez first danced with DDR in Santa Monica. "It's fun and keeps
me productive. I like music games," he said.
Valdez said she first encountered the game during a family
vacation at Disneyland. "My Dad saw it and thought it was
interesting and made us play with it." Her parents sometimes go to
the Metreon, located at Fourth and Mission streets in The City's
South of Market district, to watch Valdez and her sister dance.
Every city has its own style of dancing to DDR's music. Kirsten
Maynard, Metreon's public relations manager, said there are even
different styles among Bay Area DDR fanatics.
"Dancers in Milpitas have a flamboyant style and Sunnyvale is
more subdued," she said. "But San Francisco is evolving and its
style is a combination of the two." The Golfland facilities in
Milpitas and Sunnyvale each have their own DDR machines.
According to Marlene Saritzky, Metreon's director of
communications and external affairs, the Metreon did not expect the
game to become so popular.
"We didn't exactly know what to expect as far as plays-per-day
when DDR arrived, especially as we were the first in the city to get
it," Saritzky said. "We projected a minimum of at least 30 plays per
day. What we got in the first month was 4,000 plays."
The Metreon is still the only place in San Francisco that offers
the Dance Dance Revolution game.
DDR has become so popular that fans set up a Web site (http://www.ddrfreak.com/). It
lists everything from events to dancing techniques.
The mass interest in video games is growing. According to the
Interactive Digital Software Association, a service provider to
entertainment software publishers, 60 percent of all Americans play
video games. Entertainment software sales topped $6.1 billion last
year, an 11 percent increase from 1998.
But unlike the traditional arcade games where each play typically
costs 50 cents to $1, DDR at the Metreon charges $4 for a five-dance
game. Regulars like Perez and Valdez say they spend an average of
$50 per week.
Even though DDR costs more than most arcade games, the company's
manufacturer, Japan-based Konami Inc., believes that parents like
the game. Mary Hermanson, a spokeswoman for Konami's U.S. division,
based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., said, "The parents' reaction is
definitely positive because it is nonviolent. If anything, it helps
the player with his foot-eye coordination."
Hermanson says the game first caught on along the West Coast with
kids in their late teens. Konami is expected to launch a home
version for Sony's PlayStation next January.